A few years ago my cat had some health issues that required regular trips to our local vet. As well as medical treatment, at different stages, they recommended a variety of different cat foods from Royal Canin to help treat her condition.
Considering the frequency with which these foods were being recommended, and the hefty price tag on each bag or can, I started to wonder what exactly set Royal Canin apart from other cat foods and began to research the brand.
Unfortunately, what I discovered was that while some of the prescription cat foods do genuinely help with certain conditions, the underlying cat food does not align with the things that I value in a good cat food, specifically high-quality, species-appropriate ingredients.
Consequently, in my opinion, unless your vet specifically recommends a certain Royal Canin food for a specific medical condition, this overpriced food is not worth the money.
Read on to find out more about the label and take a detailed look inside some of their most popular recipes.
At a Glance: My Royal Canin Cat Food Review
The meat that forms the basis of Royal Canin cat foods is generally not good quality, with meal, or even meat-by products being listed as the first ingredient. These are generally coupled with a lot of carbohydrates and plant-based protein, which offer very little nutritional value to cats, and should basically be considered filler.
Royal Canin Wet Foods
Royal Canin makes a variety of wet cat food lines. Let’s take a look at three of their most popular.
First 10 ingredients: Water Sufficient For Processing, Pork By-Products, Chicken By-Products, Chicken Liver, Pork Liver, Salmon, Wheat Flour, Wheat Gluten, Gelatin, Pork Plasma.
This line of wet food is marketed as appealing to cats’ natural instincts. Since cats have evolved to exist largely on raw meat, this should mean that it is a recipe heavy in quality meats, without a lot of other ingredients filling the recipe.
The dish is meat heavy, with the first five ingredients being pork by-products, chicken by-products, chicken liver, pork liver, and salmon. The presence of liver is reassuring, as cats have evolved to eat the whole animal, including muscle, organs, skin, and bone, and liver is particularly good for them.
More worrying is pork and chicken by-products as the first ingredients. While this can contain much of the nutrition that cats need, such as skin and cartilage, cats do require that more of their meat comes from muscle meat, and there is just no guarantee what you are actually getting with by-product meat. While it is acceptable to have this as part of the recipe, for quality cat foods, named fresh meat should be the first ingredient.
- Crude protein 10.5% minimum
- Crude fat 1.9% minimum
- Crude fiber 1.8% maximum
- Moisture 81.5% maximum
The other problem with this recipe is that it contains a lot of carbohydrates, especially for a wet food. Wet foods should generally be meat and moisture, with a small amount of carbohydrate used as a thickener.
Dry foods, on the other hand, need more carbohydrates to create the kibble consistency. This wet food contains a lot of wheat, which cats have not evolved to eat. While it probably will not hurt your cat, it just doesn’t provide any nutritional value.
One final worrying ingredient here is carrageenan, which is a thickener. This is quite a controversial ingredient as it is thought to both exacerbate inflammation and be carcinogenic. While this is debatable, there just doesn’t seem to be any reason to include it in the recipe.
First 10 ingredients: Water Sufficient For Processing, Chicken By-Products, Pork By-Products, Pork Liver, Salmon, Chicken Liver, Wheat Flour, Pork Plasma, Modified Corn Starch, Vegetable Oil.
This Royal Canin line is marketed as being easy for cats with sensitive stomachs to eat, while also reducing stool odor. At its base, it is very similar to the first recipe on this list. Meat products are its first two ingredients, and it has a lot of wheat-based carbohydrates that cats don’t need. It is lower in protein than other recipes because while cats have evolved to eat a lot of protein, it can be slow for them to pass.
So while cats may be able to eat and pass this food pretty quickly, it is not offering them a lot of nutrition with questionable meat ingredients, and a lot of carbohydrates that are not species appropriate.
- Crude protein 7.5% minimum
- Crude fat 2% minimum
- Crude fiber 1.7% maximum
- Moisture 82.5% maximum
First 10 ingredients: Water Sufficient For Processing, Pork By-Products, Pork Liver, Chicken, Chicken Liver, Wheat Flour, Gelatin, Pork Plasma, Powdered Cellulose, Vegetable Oil.
Another similar recipe largely based on meat by-products, but with more fresh meat included with chicken included among the top ingredients. The resulting recipe, designed specifically for older cats that need less energy than when they were younger, is still something with relatively low-quality meat ingredients and lots of unnecessary carbohydrates. This dish is also thickened with the questionable carrageenan.
- Crude protein 9% minimum
- Crude fat 2.5% minimum
- Crude fiber 1.8 % maximum
- Moisture % maximum
Royal Canin Dry Foods
Moving onto dry foods, let’s take a look at what is in three of Royal Canin’s most popular dry cat foods.
First 10 ingredients: Chicken Meal, Brewers Rice, Corn Gluten Meal, Corn, Powdered Cellulose, Wheat Gluten, Natural Flavors, Chicken Fat, Salt, Potassium Chloride, Fish Oil.
This very expensive dry cat food is designed to help ease urinary tract issues. This is a little surprising considering it is a dry food, and one of the fastest ways to treat urinary issues is to increase the amount of moisture in a diet. However, it achieves this by containing ingredients that help dissolve struvite stones and prevent calcium oxalate stones.
While this is an excellent medical addition, the underlying kibble is not great. Its main meat is chicken meal, which is pretty common in dry foods, but considering the hefty price tag, I would expect a named meat and associated liver to be the first ingredients.
As already discussed, dry food needs to contain more carbohydrates than wet food in order to give kibble its texture and longevity, but this recipe is very high in carbohydrates, even for a dry cat food. Its main ingredients include Brewers rice, corn, and corn gluten meal as well as wheat gluten.
These are all foods that cats have not evolved to eat, and which give them very little nutritional value. This just undermines Royal Canin’s claim to create foods that are evolutionarily appropriate.
- Crude protein 32% minimum
- Crude fate 9% minimum
- Crude fiber 9.3% maximum
- Moisture 8% maximum
First 10 ingredients: Chicken Meal, Corn, Brewers Rice, Corn Gluten Meal, Wheat, Chicken Fat, Wheat Gluten, Natural Flavors, Brown Rice, Pea Fiber.
Designed specifically for indoor cats, it is formulated to be relatively low in protein and high in fiber to aid digestion, but also low in fat and low in calories to account for the more sedentary lifestyles of indoor cats. But again, we are seeing the same problems, meal being used as the main meat source, rather than high-quality meats, and just a lot of unnecessary carbohydrates.
A cat living off this kind of food is like a person living off of junk food. They are consuming a lot of calories, but those calories do not carry very much necessary nutrition.
- Crude protein 27% minimum
- Crude fat 11% minimum
- Crude fiber 5.7% maximum
- Moisture 8% maximum
First 10 ingredients: Brewers Rice, Wheat Gluten, Chicken Meal, Chicken Fat, Corn Gluten Meal, Soy Protein Isolate, Wheat, Natural Flavors, Corn, Chicory.
Designed for cats with sensitive stomachs, this is the highest protein dry cat food on this list. But, while it may be higher in protein, it is even higher in carbohydrates, containing significantly more Brewers rice and wheat gluten than it does chicken. Also, its protein levels may be elevated by the presence of ingredients such as soy protein isolate. This kind of plant-based protein is not a good alternative to meat-based protein.
Unlike humans, and even dogs, who can live off plant-based protein, cats have evolved as pure meat eaters and they cannot produce many of the essential compounds that they need to function from plant-based proteins. They need animal-based protein.
- Crude protein 36% minimum
- Crude fat 13% minimum
- Crude Fiber 3.7% maximum
- Moisture 8% maximum
About Royal Canin
Royal Canin started at a veterinary surgery clinic in the south of France in the 1960s when vet Jean Cathart, troubled by a scourge of skin and coat conditions, started experimenting with nutritional treatments.
The food that he cooked in his garage was so popular and successful that he turned his back on his veterinary practice, trademarked the Royal Canin name, and got into the pet food business. The company has grown exponentially over the last 50 years, as it is now part of the Mars family, along with other popular pet food brands such as IAMS, Nutro, and Sheba.
Unlike many more local products, Royal Canin cannot give guarantees about where their ingredients are sourced and where their products are manufactured. Their supply line is international because they sell their products all over the world as one of the leading veterinary cat food brands.
Royal Canin currently sells over 100 different varieties of cat food, including both wet and dry, and marketed for a variety of different life stages, body types, lifestyles, health conditions, and breeds.
Royal Canin’s veterinary prescription lines are their most popular, as they are recommended by vets around the globe. While these products may help with a cat’s specific medical problems, the underlying food that forms the core of the diet is generally pretty low-quality, with ingredients that are questionable both in terms of quality and species appropriateness.
While the specific medical properties contained in many Royal Canin cat foods can help manage and cure specific feline medical conditions, in terms of overall natural health, based on a diet that is high-quality and species-appropriate, Royal Canin scores very low. While it may be worth investing in if advised by a vet, in general, there are better quality, less expensive cat foods on the market.
Watch this video for tips on what to look for and what to avoid when picking cat food.